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Washington 17, John Boehner 15, Boehner 13, California 13, U.s. 13, Us 10, Alex Witt 9, China 9, America 8, Clinton 8, Syria 7, Alex 7, Warfarin 6, Benghazi 6, Nbc 6, Bob 5, Obama 4, Karen 4, Msnbc 4, Philadelphia 4,
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  MSNBC    Weekends With Alex Witt    News  News/Business. New.  

    December 8, 2012
    9:00 - 11:00am PST  

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it's high noon in the east. 9:00 a.m. out west. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." here's some of the first five stories trending at this hour. supreme court at the center of national debate. could bill clinton be making a longer term move to ireland? man charzed in subway accident blaming voices. the man from the most watched video on youtube issues an apology. another big lottery winner claims his prize. but there's still a secret. we have details on all those stories throughout the hour. but first -- developing news today. nbc news has learned that egyptian authorities have made a major arrest in the benghazi, libya counsel attack that killed ambassador chris stephens and three other americans. reporting from cairo egypt, our reporter. >> reporter: egyptian sources tell nbc news they have a man in their custody they believe is connected to the
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attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi on september 11th and killed four americans including ambassador chris stephens. according to an e judicial source the man is identified as being in his late 30s. he is known to egyptian intelligence officials for his connections in the past with extremist groups in egypt and libya and his connections with groups in afghanistan and iraq. after the country's revolution he managed to escape from a prison where he was being held. it was shortly afterwards he emerged on this scene for egyptian intelligence officials who say he began trading in arms between libya into egypt and then ultimately onto gaza. right now there's no indication what role he may have played precisely in the attack on the u.s. consulate. he is being held in egyptian custody. there were some conflicting reports as to when he was actually detained. some suggested he was arrested on friday morning. there were other reports suggesting he had been arrested several weeks ago. right now he remains in egyptian custody.
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he has not been charged with any precise accusations. he its however, though, being questioned by egyptian officials as to what role he may have played or what information he may know. he has not been referred to the country's top state security court, the judiciary body that handles all security related charges in the country. he is just one of many threads involved in the benghazi attack. several other reports of individual being arrested in tunisia that may also have connections. for right now there's no confirmation as to what role he precisely played. nbc news, cairo. >> thank you for that. another note on benghazi, secretary of state hillary clinton will testify before open hearings on the benghazi attack report. report expected to be released next week with the hearings following shortly thereafter. developing now nbc news has confirmed nelson mandela is undergoing tests in a hospital. the spokesperson for former south african president says the tests have been planned for some
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time and are consistent with his age. the country's current president says mandela is doing fine and there is no cause for alarm. the 94-year-old was last admitted to the hospital in february. new duelling arguments today in the fiscal cliff war of words. with just 24 days and counting, president obama and senator marco rubio in the republican address are racheting up the rhetoric. >> we can and should do more than just extend middle class tax cuts. and i stand ready to work with republicans or a plan that spurs economic growth, creates jobs and reduces our deficit. a plan that gives both sides some of what they want. >> tax increases will not solve our $16 trillion debt. only economic growth and a reform of entitlement programs will help control the debt. we must reform our complicated, uncertain job-killing tax code by getting rid of unjustifi loo holls. >> molly ball and david
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nakamura. thanks for joining me. >> good to be here. >> david so house speaker john boehner says there's no progress to report. the white house says republicans are to blame for dragging their feet. it seems at least publicly we're getting nowhere. is there anything bigger churning behind the scenes? >> alex, i wish i had good news for you. there's not much going on. certainly at the staff level there's still talks going on. the president did have an onization with john boehner. both sides publicly at least are blaming the others for delaying here. i think both sides are said we know what we want to do, which is for the white house raise rates on the rich. but what can they talk about behind the scenes when the republicans are saying we don't want to do that, on the flip side the white house is saying they don't want to do the republican idea of just capping loop holes at least right now. they want to do that next year with a broader tax reform debate. right now there's not a lot to talk about. the president is going on the road again to detroit on monday and continue his public relations campaign on this to galvanize public opinion. behind the scenes not much. >> molly, have you heard reports
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that the president and john boehner may be meeting face-to-face? if so what do you hear about that? were that to happen would you expect much to come from that? >> i think we'll know these talks are directly engaged when we do have more communication between the actual principals. having said that, when boehner came out on friday and said they had no progress to report that was his read out of a call with the president. so it seems that even when they are communicating they're not getting anywhere. both these men have been saying that they do want to deal, they want to find some place of agreement. but first the question if they can agree on anything. then the question if they can bring along their respective parties. >> so david, i want to put up right now a couple of polls. one shows 65% of americans support higher taxes on top earners. the other one shows a majority trusts the president more than the gop. so from simply a p.r. perspective, the gop is losing. doesn't that dramatically weaken their bargaining power? >> alex, it does to some extent.
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you look back a year and a half ago when they were talking about the debt ceiling. we all know what happened there. the president had really low approval ratings at that time. the republicans held a lot of the cards. this time it's very different. president came off the re-election. that's why you see the president holding the hard line. a lot of pressure on the president to hold his hard line even from his left. i think you'll continue to seat president do so. it's going to be up to the republicans to feel whether he has enough pressure, i think the white house is encouraged that some republicans have broken ranks and are starting to say let's look at other opportunities to maybe raise rates. >> we'll talk about the ultimate in breaking ranks if you will. molly, i want to ask you about the surprising resignation of tea party favorite jim demint. it seems kind of sudden. why now? >> everybody was surprised about this. but i seems in the aftermath of the election the republicans are still in the minority of the senate. demint was in the minority of the minority. that's not a very powerful place
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to be. demint always known as a bomb thrower, someone who liked to make trouble. he figured he's probably correct about this he could have more power and influence and be less restrained from the outside advocating for his ideas which has also been his first priority. >> david, what about congressman tim scott? that's a person most being talked up as a replacement. why if so if it's true? >> although he's just finishing his first term in the house, he has a lot of support from the tea party but also he worked well on the establishment on the republican side. john boehner tapped him to be one of the young leaders. i think there's also the factor he's african-american. there's no other african americans in the senate. he'd be the only one i think the republican side in congress. at a time when you saw this in the last election republicans really struggling to reach minority groups and they want to sort of bronze their appeal, i think he presents a very good opportunity to sort of move forward. >> okay. david, i'm going to say thank you very much. molly i'm going to ask you to stick around for one more question on the other side of this next topic. we go to what could be the civil
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rights case of a generation or cases plural. the supreme court has decided to take up two challenges to same-sex marriage. nbc justice correspondent pete williams has the story from washington. hello, pete. >> reporter: alex this is a big deal. the u.s. supreme court has never been agreed to take a serious look at the issue of same-sex marriages. now it will. the justices will consider at least these two questions. can the federal government refuse to recognize same sex marges in the states they're already legal. secondly what's to become of them in california. just a day after washington state became the latest allowing gay couples to get married, the supreme court said it will delve into one of the nation's most hotly debated issues. >> the highest court in the land has decided to take up what will be one of the biggest civil rights cases this court could ever hear. >> reporter: the court agreed to take up the legal battle over california's proposition 8, passed by voters four years ago
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ending same-sex marriage in the state. a firm appeals court ruled the ban unconstitutional on grounds that applied only in california. but now that the supreme court is weighting in, the justices could get to the more basic issue. can any state ban same-sex marriage. nine now permit it or soon will. so does washington, d.c. the court also agreed to hear a challenge to the federal defense of marriage act. it defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman." the law had a big effect on edie windsor of new york who married tea spire in 2007. when spire died the irs sent a tax bill for $300,000 because it did not consider them to be married. >> the injustice. i couldn't believe they were making a stranger of this person i lived with and loveded for 43 something years. >> under that law, same sex couples who are legally married are denied about 1,000 federal
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benefits that other married couples get. after first supporting the defense of marriage act, the obama administration concluded last year that it violates the constitution. >> we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same sex companies. >> reporter: house republicans are now taking up the law's legal defense. supporters say it helps preserve traditional marriage. >> unions of two men and two women are not the same thing as a marriage between a man and a woman. only marriage between a man and a woman can connect children to their mother and father and their parents to the children. >> reporter: the fact that the court has agreed to take up both cases, including the battle over proposition 8 from california, could mean that the justices are prepared to get to the constitutional heart of the same-sex marriage issue. that might result in what would essentially be the roe v. wade of gay rights. >> thanks for that. back to you, molly.
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you were doing a big piece of this for "the atlantic" for next week. what did you find most interesting in your research thus far? >> the really amazing thing about this issue is how far public opinion has come in a relatively short time on the scale of sort of large-scale social change. when gallup recently polled public opinion on gay marriage, it had the support of 53% of the american public. back in 1996 that was 27%. and that was the atmosphere in which president clinton and the congress were passing the defense of marriage act. since then, every single appellate court that has considered it has ruled against it. that's something that advocates feel very confident about the supreme court going their way. on the proposition 8 case, advocates are a little bit more nervous. this is a conservative court. and if they do rule against proposition 8 and gay marriage in california, that would strike a blow against gay marriage that could last for quite some time. of course if they rule the other way, that would be a momentous change as pete was saying. >> absolutely. okay, molly.
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we'll look forward to bringing that in "the atlantic" coming up. today we've been asking you, do you expect the supreme court -- what do you expect them to do on gay marriage? we've got an lot of responses. here they are some of them at least. bill w sweets" scotus should rule in favor of same-sex marriage. basing marriage on ability to have kids is crazy. marriages should be based on mutual respect and love. i will remember writes "our god almighty created man and women. he did not do this for them to undo his creation." norval thomas said "will rule it's constitutional. end of sub. nick writes "they will make the right decision. it's 2012 for pete's sake. we should all be equal by now. cheryl harris says "i think doma women get shut down quickly on solid legal grounds. prop 8 harder but kennedy will clear it up." next the tug-of-war over the fiscal cliff. how much are democrats willing to give our entitlement cuts?
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we'll ask congressman elijah cummings that question. the fight on capitol hill convinces a big powerball winner to claim his fortune now. you're watching "weekends with alex witt." [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso. in what world do potatoes, bacon and cheese add up to 100 calories? your world. ♪ [ whispers ] real bacon... creamy cheese... 100 calories... [ chef ] ma'am
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headlines from newspapers in the west now. first a banner headline from arizona's daily star about the second winner of that $587 million powerball jackpot. he hails from a wealthy suburb of phoenix and wants to remain anonymous. he's decided to collect now and not next year over fiscal cliff worries. he's taking a lump sum payment of 192 million bucks before taxes.
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from the manteca blul tin near stockton, california, an extension of the central valley's wildlife refuge won't come by em than the domain. a u.s. wildlife official says the government will buy up property only if there are willing sellers. "the record" in stock on the last picture show about the remaining video store chain. where there was once now there's one. it's hanging in there a dying breed. 24 days to go for lawmakers to agree on a solution to the fiscal cliff. if the compromise is not reached the blame may be spread equally. cnbc's survey finds that 21% of the americans would blame blame president obama and the democrats. 23% would blame the republicans. 52% would blame both parties equally. joining me now democratic congressman elijah cummings of the government oversight and reform committee. so glad to have you here. welcome. >> good to be with you. >> if republicans steadfastly
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refuse to raise taxes on the top earners are we definitively heading over the fiscal cliff? >> i don't think we'll have a deal. the president has made that very clear that the top earners ought to be paying more and we should be dealing with tax rates going up as opposed to just revising the tax code and looking at deductions. and so i think the president has been very firm. and he is getting a lot of backup from people who stood in long lines on election day to elect him. he's well aware of that. but i think that's where his heart is, too. this is not something new. this is something that he campaigned on. and he won on. if you look at the polling numbers, this is what the american people voted for. they said that the upper earners should be paying more. >> i'm curious, though, from the president's perspective, how important is a deal now whether it's just a deal or the deal
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that he wants in terms of his second term, his overall political power if you will? how does that play out? >> knowing the president as i do, i think it is very important to him that he gets a deal. but i also know that he believes that no deal is better than a bad deal. he also knows that if we go into 2013 and having to deal with this, we have even a better situation because of course the senate has more democrats there. and then we're dealing from a whole different perspective. but i believe very strongly, and i think all of us want a deal. keep in mind, there are some things we could do right now. we all agree that those earning less than $250,000, their tax cuts should be extended. everybody agrees on that. and now basically what's happening clearly is that the republicans are holding us
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hostage. but three days ago i would have said that the the chances of something being worked out were at best 20%. i feel a little bit more comfortable believing that something is going to be worked out and give it about a 70% chance. >> what is it that makes you think that? >> well, the fact that boehner and the president have pretty much gotten to a point where they'll be sitting down trying to work this out as opposed to a lot of cooks in the kitchen, i think that's helpful. and even the pushback with regard to speaker boehner sitting down with the president from other republicans has not been as great as i thought it would be. so i think we have a chance. the question is, whether if a deal is worked out whether speaker boehner is going to be able to sell that to his party. keep in mind that when we've had deals in the past when he took it back to the tea party folks, they said absolutely not. and we know he's getting a lot
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of pressure from the right. so we need to see. >> i'm curious. are you among that group of democrats that believes speaker boehner's heart is in the right place, wants to get it done? and do you agree with your democratic colleague who was on with me earlier today, aren't john yarmouth of kentucky who said he thinks that the reason we've gotten a break for a day this week in the house and one next week coming is because john boehner wants to get things done without having the gop obstructionists if you will around to muddy the waters. do you think that's true? >> i don't know. but i think that speaker boehner is a decent man. i think he's very caring. but at the same time, i know because i've seen it up front and personal, i know that the tea party being so conservatively to the right basically have been wielding a lot of power with regard to what goes on on the republican side of the aisle. and i'm just hoping -- i thought
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it was a good sign that speaker boehner had come to a point where he could go and now work directly with the president. and it sounds like there are people in the party that is in the house on the republican side who are saying, you know, maybe we do need to raise the rates. and i think that's a good thing. and that's by the way i think that's the only way we're going to get a deal. >> what about the 37% number? that figure for across the board? >> i'm sorry. >> the 37% raising the tax rate to 37% as opposed to 39.6? >> i think it should be up to 39.6. i think it should be the same rate that it was during the clinton era. we've got to keep in mind that folks at the upper end over $250,000 range have done fairly well. and i think that again when i talk to the people in my district, what they're saying to me is cummings, we don't mind. i'm talk about people making a million dollars or more. they've said to me, look.
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we don't mind paying more taxes. we're more concerned about the fiscal cliff. and so i think that again there are a lot of people that want to contribute. they know that there should be shared sacrifice. they realize that we cannot do this on the backs of our elderly, poor people and those in the middle class and those trying to get to the middle class on the backs of students. and i think they're saying, you know what? we can pay more because we want to do something that is good for our country. and hopefully that message will get through to the republicans and indeed the tea party folks. >> but if the ultimate goal here, sir, is to cut the national debt and sometimes people lose sight of that in the discussion here, the gop says the dems are just offering more spending and little in way of cutting. are democrats willing to give at all on entitlements? >> keep in mind, yes. and the president has made it clear. but we've got to look very carefully at the entitlements and realize that something like
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medicare, medicare right now you've got a situation where there's not a whole whole lot to cut. i mean, you can cut with regard to renegotiating these rates, putting rates for pharmaceutical products with these various pharmacies. i mean we could save a lot of money there. i think the other thing mark zandy said just yesterday, as you know he was the adviser to mccain, he said in a hearing yesterday that the affordable care act is having some impact on possibly reducing the inflation rate of medical costs in medicare. and he believes that one of the things we have to do is we have to strengthen the affordable care act so that we are concentrating on keeping people well. it's cheaper to keep them well. far more costly when they get sick. and if we can keep them well, that will bring down the cost of medicare at the same time. so yeah, there are many things that we can do. we can make that medicare system much more efficient and
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effective. and i believe the president is committed to doing that. i know i am. >> all right. well, maryland democrat representative elijah cummings. good to speak with you, sir. >> good talking to you. still ahead worries about the fiscal cliff in china? why is beijing so concerned? and it's the most livable city on earth. we'll show you why in today's list of number ones coming right up. but now let's go to number two on our first five web stories. rumors are swirling in washington that former president bill clinton could wind up as the next u.s. ambassador to ireland when the globe-trotting clinton made his third trip to the emerald isle in november he joked he could run for president of ireland if only he had a home there. eat good fats. avoid bad. don't go over 2000... 1200 calories a day. carbs are bad. carbs are good. the story keeps changing. so i'm not listening... to anyone but myself. i know better nutrition when i see it: great grains. great grains cereal starts whole and stays whole. see the seam? more processed flakes look nothing like natural grains.
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with alex witt." imagine your tv set talk box watching you? verizon has filed a patent for a set-top box that has sensors to determine what you are doing and personal characteristics. with that information specifically gearing advertisers would then be delivered to your set just like what happens on the internet. now in today's list of number ones with a focus on places like vienna, austria, named the best place to live in the world. in fact once again europe dominates the mercer quality of living survey with eight cities making the top ten. at number two is zurich, switzerland with auckland, new zealand ranking third. honolulu is the top u.s. city coming in 28th just ahead of paris with ties with san francisco. boston is the third highest-ranked american city. leading lonely planet's list of the top u.s. destinations for travel in 2013, home of the greatest two minutes in sportsers louisville, kentucky. respond that louisville a cool place to eat and shop. fairbanks, action comes in second especially for late
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summer viewing of the northern lights. san juan islands, washington coming in third. number six eastern sierra, california. shout out to mammoth mountain. gorgeous out there. just saying. i'll decorate it and it will be just right for our play. besides i think it needs me. >> good grief, don't try that at home. you want to find a real healthy tree? try the state that produces the most christmas trees which is oregon. with almost 5 million. north carolina and michigan are the runners up. and those are your number once. citracal slow release continuously releases calcium plus d with efficient absorption in one daily dose. citracal slow release.
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americans. nbc's mike viqueira at the white house for us. mike, we are 24 days and counting. where does the situation stand right now? >> reporter: which is over at the advent calendar here and start counting down the days to the fiscal cliff. the president said this morning in his weekly address he will not compromise on this issue of raising taxes. no compromise. he said i think it's the most forecefully he's ever said it, alex. there is some wiggle room. how high are the rates going to go for the wealthiest americans. visiting a d.c. area diner, vice president joe biden said if the gop were willing, a debt deal could be done in short order. >> it would take 15 minutes from the time the decision was made by the speaker of the house to pass and make permanent the middle class tax cut. the president would probably have me sprint up to the hill to bring the bill down for him to sign. >> reporter: but even after the latest in a series of private calls with the president, house speaker john boehner says the white house is stone walling. >> when it comes to the fiscal cliff that's threatening our
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economy and threatening jobs, the white house has wasted another week. >> reporter: this morning in his weekly address, president obama is holding a hard line on raising rates for the wealthy. >> and if we're serious about protecting middle class families, then we're also go to have to ask the wealthiest americans to pay higher tax rates. that's one principle i won't compromise on. >> reporter: but how much higher could be the key to compromise. the top tax rate is set to rise from 35 to 39.6% on january 1st. when asked if a middle ground could be found, both boehner and bide enshowed wiggle room. >> the top brackets have to go up. this is not a negotiatiable issue. theoretically we could negotiate how far up. >> at a local restaurant, the owner has seen enough of washington gridlock. >> i wish those lawmakers would get their acts together and get it done and try to help everybody. it would be good if they could do it before the holidays are over. >> reporter: she said it, alex.
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now john boehner after that comment yesterday he walked back. he took the hard line on not raising taxes at all on anyone including the wealthy. nancy pelosi was here last night talking to the president, i'm told. we are working this issue very hard, alex, as you're probably aware, trying to figure out the state of play here. there isn't much movement here. there wasn't a lot of information to share. everyone in washington that's close to this es being very cagey. the president is actually out golfing right now. i'm told john boehner the speaker has stayed in town this weekend, somewhat unusual for him. but as far as we can see, no movement, alex. >> okay. mike, now don't go too far. you're coming back as one of our esteemed guests in today's big panel. about 1:45. you're going to get all the hard questions. it's all coming your way. we'll see you in a bit. thank you. the fiscal cliff is not just a concern for americans as my next guest learned on a recent trade mission to china where he was pat of a conference organized by former u.s. treasury secretary hank paulsen. joining me now, philadelphia mayor michael nutter here in studio. good day to you. >> good seeing you, alex.
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>> tell me first of all what was the mission of this trip? >> the primary purpose, actually secretary paulsen, his paulsen institute was having their second annual sustainability conference about cities and sustainability. when you look at what's going on in china, the amount of investment in infrastructure, the growth of many cities, beijing has 20 million people and anticipates 1 million additional people every year for at least the next five years. a sister city to philadelphia 15 million people, fifth largest city in china. it is massive in scale, the number of people in cities, the infrastructure investments that are being made in ports and in bridges and roads. and structural -- structures all across these big cities. and then they're planning other cities. put 2 million people here, put 5 million people here in cities. >> extraordinary. >> so it is almost overwhelming. >> yes. i know that you traveled there
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with "fortune" magazine's reporter. he was on here earlier this week and said there were two things that people wanted to know most about. that was our fiscal cliff situation and whether or not hillary clinton is going to run for president in 2016. so i want to start with the cliff first. what were the concerns? >> the concerns were that the united states of america, the great nation that we are, the largest economy in the world. and the world is watching to see. i was asked directly, what's going on in washington. they're concerned about gridlock as well as many americans are. and i try to give some explanation as to what the president is proposing, the fact that everyone agrees that middle class tax rates should go down and those cuts should stay in place. they agree on that. they should pass that now. the senate has already passed it. the house needs to take up that measure. as well as what you just heard the president say and others that those who can pay more should. that rate should go up on upper income americans to help close the deficit that we're facing
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right now. >> so we know that china obviously has a vested interest in our economy. it sounds to me by your description they prefer the president's plan. >> there was a lot of discussion about the president's plan. but they also just -- they want to see america make a decision. the world is watching what we're doing. and the one thing i did experience certainly in china was a lot of decisions get made and then investment is made. it's pretty much one right after the other. we tend to have a long debate about what we're going to do and get down to crunch time and then suddenly something happens. i think we can't afford to have that happen right now. as a lady said on the previous clip, just a store owner, make a decision. try to make it as soon as possible. let's not go into this holiday season with this level of uncertainty. business people, small, medium and large not knowing what's going on. the world is watching. >> yes. she said so very colorfully i might add. >> i didn't repeat that part. >> we didn't. i want to bring you back home for a minute, though. what does this mean for your
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city, for philadelphia, if we were to go over the cliff? >> i would have a devastating impact for philadelphia, many cities across the country. i'm presently serving as the president of the u.s. conference of mayors. and working with my colleagues at the national league of cities and at the national association of counties. we are in agreement that the fiscal cliff issue must be dealt with. 90% of the u.s. gdp is generated in cities in metro areas all across the united states of america. 80 plus percent of americans live in cities. so that's where the talent is. that's where the ideas are. that's where innovation takes place. that's where infrastructure investments need to be made to put americans back to work. so we're all very concerned about this. we need congress to partner with the president, pass the middle class tax cuts right now, work on these other issues immediately and let's get a deal done so we can get back to governing. the campaign is over. >> quickly to hillary clinton, the fascination with so many in
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china about whether or not she runs for president. what do you think their sentiment is? >> i have no idea what secretary clinton is going to do. ultimately she'll make that decision. she is obviously very popular here in the united states and across -- >> even in china she's a very popular person? >> they know the secretary very well, respect her highly. so she has done a tremendous job as secretary of state. in previous position, has done very, very well. i'm certainly still a big fan and a good friend. but her work right now a lot of it focused on what's going on in the middle east. but there'll always be intrigue and interest in secretary clinton. >> i'm a fan too of hers. she's quite an accomplished woman. philadelphia mayor michael nutter, thank you so much. >> thanks, alex. now to number four on our first five web stories. he has the most watched video ever on youtube. but that south korean wrapper is known as si is apologizing today for an anti-american rap he did in 2004. he said the rap was in protest over a south korea hostage who was killed by iraqi insurgents
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that. triggered anti-u.s. protests in south korea. the mea culpa comes ahead of a tv christmas special that will be attended by the first family. wasn't my daughter's black bean soup spectacular? [ man thinking ] oh, this gas. those antacids aren't working. oh no, not that, not here! [ male announcer ] antacids don't relieve gas. gas-x is designed to relieve gas. gas-x. the gas xperts.
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in today's office politics, my conversation with "new york times" pulitzer prize winning columnist nicholas kristoff. some of the extraordinary things he's picked up on his travels around the world. i began by asking him about the crisis in syria. >> let's talk a bit about syria. you were just there. you wrote about the difficulties of even getting into syria. the government certainly wouldn't let you in. but the free syrian army said okay, pass through this checkpoint. >> this time i went to turkey and crossed over the border into rebel-controlled areas. and you pass through turkish immigration and walk through
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this sort of no man's land. and then the free syrian army folks who look at your passport. they say welcome. and that's about it. then you're in syria. >> and what goes through your mind? you're in syria. that's not a place a lot of people want to be right now. >> look, i spent a lot of my time pretty scared, frankly, reporting in the case of syria i was in an area that was rebel -- clearly rebel controlled. and so it wasn't as risky as it sounds. and people always look at me, my job and think oh, boy how dangerous. meanwhile, i always think of those photographers and camera crews who are out there. i mean when they hear gunfire their rule is to immediately rush toward the gunfire. and my basic rule of traveling in war zones you never accept a ride from a photographer because then when they hear the gunfire they head for it. >> don't be going there.
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it was interesting because you wrote about a man who is a pro-western businessman who los his son to sniper fire. he dead despite his leanings being pro-western, he actually welcomes all of the rebels whoever they may be. you know what i'm implying there. because of western indifference. is that a pervasive feeling in syria? >> you know, i'm not sure they really spent enough time to be able to say what syrians think and there's certainly a huge range. but i do think that we kind of blew it, that we've been behind the curve all the way along for about a year and a half now. and that people feel to some degree betrayed that we haven't played a more supportive role and that the people who have been playing a supportive role
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are these fundamental islamists. and that has given those islamists more influence. >> the argument being we don't know exactly the makeup of these rebels. and the possibility of weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. >> i think you're right that one of the reasons we haven't been more supportive of the rebels is real concerns about who they are and whether they're radical to some degree. but i'm afraid that our posture has simply amplified the strength of the radicals within the free syrian army. so our policy is helping create a situation that we're most nervous about. >> if there was an easy answer we would have found it. >> absolutely. there are a lot more problems in international relations than solutions. >> a couple of things you have in this office. what is this mural as people would walk in here? what does that say? >> that's caligraphy.
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freedom of the press. it's written by a journalist who was from china and was imprisoned for his journalism. and it's somebody i admire greatly. he's now in exile. >> yes. this is hanging over the door as you get in. it is the holiday season, nick. any chances this chinese mistletoe? >> no. >> no? >> it's from a shrine in japan where my wife and i lived for years. and the shrine was started when they found the head of a samurai warrior 500 years ago. and it's called the head shrine. it's supposed to make you smarter. that amulet is supposed to make you smarter. i figure i need all the help i can get. >> maybe i'll be walking out and back in a few times. >> i did walk a few times back and forth there. tomorrow at this time, nick tells me about the inspirational group of israeli rabbis protecting palestinian farm
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lands. we'll talk about one experience he will never forget. >> $850 for one and 203 u.s. dollars for the other. >> you are not going to believe what those receipts bought him. that's tomorrow at 12:30 eastern. now number three on our first five web stories. homeless man charged with murder for pushing another man if front of an oncoming subway train says he was hearing voices at the time. the accused told the "new york post" he was high on drugs. the man says he didn't mean to kill anyone. it was just an argument gone too far. a santa to boot! [ chuckles ] right, baby. oh, sir. that is a customer. oh...sorry about that. [ male announcer ] break from the holiday stress. fedex office.
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the u.s. supreme court has announced it will take on the question of gay marriage and equal rights for same sex couples. that follows the legalization of marijuana in colorado and washington and a fiscal cliff battle up to the majority of americans calling for higher taxes on the rich. joining me now for strategy talk, karen finney, msnbc political analyst and former dnc communications director and chip saltsman, republican strategist and former manager of mike
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huckabee's presidential campaign. welcome. you look resplend end in purple, karen. are we experiencing a liberalization of america? if so what is the catalyst? >> if you take a look at both the issue landscape and the exit polling from the most recent election, i think it gives you kind of a road map as to what's going on here. i mean, we are a more diverse country. we have more diverse backgrounds and interests. we did see sort of the issue landscape with regard to the exit polling showing that people's opinions are changing on a lot of these issues. look at the millennial generation. they are far more tolerant generation, far more diverse generation. i think what this reflects is those same kind of demographic shifts that we saw manifest itself both in our census and in the election. >> chip, i want to play for you a clip from msnbc's "hardball" last night. let's all take a listen to this. >> center right party very much like the country.
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>> i don't agree with that. country's center right. >> they just voted for obama. >> that's another show. we'll have that conversation. but the country is center right in large measure. >> we can't have another arithmetic system. obama got more than 50%. >> this is about the facts and the realities on the ground. >> chip, do you agree with michael steele, the center right? >> i think we are a center right country. i also agree with karen, maybe it is the purple outfit. if you look at the numbers especially if you're under 40 which both of you ladies obviously are, they don't really care about gay marriage. they really don't care about those issues. i think that's where you're seeing kind of moving in that country and the numbers prove that out. i think also i've always said the great mid nell this country to my opinion seems to be socially more liberal and fiscally more consecutive. they don't want to see a country that's $16 trillion in debt but they don't necessarily want to see a government that feels like they're dictating their church value on somebody. so just like we've known for a long time, we're deeply split country but i do think we lean a
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little bit to the right on most issues. >> karen, should we even try to label the country as center left, center right? why do that? >> we shouldn't actually. i think those labels really do a disservice to try to really understand what's going on in the country and where people really are. peer research does a fantastic study every year. they call it their political topography poll. they look at democrats and republicans and the full spectrum. it's fascinating. there's all kinds of places where there are similarities and differences among groups of people you would not necessarily expect. that is a more accurate reflexion. labels in general do us a disservice. they don't tell us what's going on with people. >> chip talk about the millennium generation and the like. what would be the republican equivalent of these generation-defining issues? >> i think for us it's definitely been the debt issue. i think when i travel around the country and talk to our younger groups, they are completely focused on the $16 trillion debt. they understand that social
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security probably is not going to be with them. it's about fiscal policy. i think that's going to be a real catalyst for the young people who are going to wake up and say they are putting me and my children in debt. i'm not even married yet. we've got to get that in order. >> i'm curious, karen, which do you think is more of a factor in all these issues? is it the younger voting group that we're taking from or is it just changing viewpoints? >> i think it's both, frankly. i think that people are -- consider that i actually am over 40. sorry, chip. >> no, i'm shocked. don't tell me that. >> when i was born it was illegal for my parents to be married. that was some 45 years ago. things change. i think part of what we're seeing this question about marriage equality is this sort of next big civil rights question. there are these big questions that from time to time it takes some time but we genuinely shift our beliefs and understand that if we say we value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, maybe there's an expansion of that beyond how we initially thought about it. i think coupled with that, though, this millennial
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generation are very different. they've grown up in a very different time. and i think they are going to very much shape the future of our country. one of the things i find most encouraging is they're very service-oriented. they care deeply about issues in ways they can serve the country and ser. world and solve problems. i think we are hopefully in good hands. >> the young gop, chip? give me a profile of like the college republicans and the young staffer on the hill. >> it's always a challenge. we're trying not to put labels on folks. but i think a lot of these folks are worried about fiscal policy. they're not as conservative on some of the social issues, but they do care deeply for instance about the life issue. when i went to the march for life this year there was a lot of younger people that i'd seen that i hadn't seen in awhile. i think it's hard to judge. i think this next generation is always fluent, very fluid in what they look like, what they sound like, what they talk like. i really think that's what the magic of this country is, that every generation almost we reinvent ourself on who we are. but we have these principles
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that are undying that are fixed that we know what we believe in. >> all right well our youthful karen finny and our very charming southern gentleman chip saltsman, thank you guys. good to see you both. >> thanks. still ahead the freshman class. the monumental challenges facing incoming congress members that go far beyond the fight over the nation's finances. we go in the room where president obama is meeting with some of the nation's governors this week to talk about the fiscal cliff. what was said. utah governor gary i harper will join me at 1:30. he was there. we'll talk to him here on "weekends with alex witt." wasn't my daughter's black bean soup spectacular? [ man thinking ] oh, this gas.
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aspirin wouldn't really help my headache, i don't think. aspirin is just old school. people have doubts about taking aspirin for pain. but they haven't experienced extra strength bayer advanced aspirin. in fact, in a recent survey, 95% of people who tried it agreed that it relieved their headache fast. what's different? it has micro-particles. enters the bloodstream fast and rushes relief to the site of pain. visit fastreliefchallenge.com today for a special trial offer. good day to all of you, welcome to "weekends with alex witt." just past 1:00 p.m. in the east. 10:00 a.m. out west. let's get to what's happening right now out there. 24 days and counting before we could possibly go over the fiscal cliff. both sides are reacting this weekend. but one prominent democrat today suggesting he's more confident a fiscal cliff deal will get done. >> three days ago i would have said that the chances of something being worked out were at best 20%. i feel a little bit more
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comfortable believing that something is going to be worked out, give it about a 70% chance. the fact that boehner and the president have pretty much gotten to a point where they'll be sitting down trying to work this out as opposed to a lot of cooks in the kitchen, i think that's helpful. >> the president has the upper hand on the politics right now. i mean, there are more people who make less than there are in the top 1%, top 5% or whatever. but will it create jobs? and while the president has spent most of this negotiation process talking about taxes, he hasn't talked about cuts as much as we want to see. >> joining me now, congressional reporter for roll call meredith shiner and washington bureau chief for "usa today" susan page. susan, you heard congressman cummings there say he now gives the deal a 70% chance of happening as opposed to a few days ago when it was like 20, is that what you're hearing in washington? >> i think there is increasing
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optimism, although not certainty that they're going to reach a deal before we head off that mythical cliff at the end of the year. you know, the two people who matter are now talking to one another, john boehner and president obama. all the other players, they have parts in these plays but the central is clearly can these two guys come to a deal acceptable to both of them and then can they turn around and sell it especially for john boehner to those conservatives in the house republican caucus. >> you know, meredith, nancy pelosi childed house republicans on friday for allowing congress to return home instead of debating a deal. take a listen to this. >> this is a moment of truth. the clock is ticking. christmas is coming. the goose is getting fat. but in many homes across america, it's a very, very lean time. >> you know, earlier, meredith, i spoke with democrat john yarmouth of kentucky. he told me he believes that john boehner cut away a workday this week and will be cutting away a workday next week because he wants to get obstructionist
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goppers, those to the way right, out of the way so that he can actually get a deal done. do you think there's any creds to that. >> i think is creates a bigger optics problem for the republican party than not. i think to not have them in washington, even though rank and file members are the players at the table like susan just said. you want to appear like you're working. we have go weeks until christmas. obviously the kind of issues at stake here hit everyday americans in their pockets. to go home, to go back to your districts instead of being here, even if that has no real political function, doesn't really look great. so i think for the speaker to let his members go home leaves him vulnerable for nancy pelosi to make the exact claims that she did. so for whatever it's worth, i think that politicians in the one way in which they're like reporters really like deadline pressure. i think that this is just ramping it up. >> well, that's for sure. susan, "politico" writes about the possibility of a so-called 37% solution.
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here's how this would work. the george w. bush era tax rate on the upper income americans is 35%. clinton era 39.6%. do you think the democrats and republicans will agree to go down the middle there with about a 37% tax rate on the top 2%? >> alex, the fact is they've been talking about these issues for more than a year since those grand bargain talks between speaker boehner and president obama in 2011. and we know the shape of a likely deal. it would be exactly that. about a 37% tax rate hike for top earners in this country. we know that secretary geithner and president obama have spoken of being open to that idea. and john boehner did himself yesterday, although after he did so in a question and answer period with reporters he then put out a statement saying he wasn't really meaning to open that door. but we know the parameters of a deal. it likely will include some kind of tax rate hike, although not to clinton levels for top
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earners, and some savings in medicare and medicaid. i think that is the likely shape of the likely deal. >> meredith, louisiana's gop governor bobby jindal wrote an op ed this week. "at present any reading of the headlines over the past week indicates republicans are fighting to protect the rich and cut benefits for seniors. it may be possible to have worse political positioning than that but i'm not sure how" the does this mean gop members are getting it? do you think it matters? governor jindal doesn't have a vote in congress. >> we were just talking about this. this is about optics for the republican party and optics for the republican party after an election in which they fail to take back the white house and failed to take back the united states senate. and so i son reesethink they're difficult position right now because the president did run on the tax cuts and letting the high-earning taxes expire. so did all of the senators who ended up pulling out upsets or eeking by. so i think that one of the biggest signs that you know the republicans feel like they're losing on this particular issue is the talk of the debt ceiling
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and how to extend our nation's borrowing capacity. really took center stage this week. it's the one place where the gop still feels like they have leverage and where they might be able to try to trade in for some sort of deal, even if it is having a lower rate for some of those higher earns. than the president had initially asked for. >> meredith, you talk about those who ran on certain principles. i have to point out then tim kaine who successfully got the senate seat out of virginia, a battle ground state. he said "here's what i think. maybe we need to have this $250,000 margin flexible. let it slide a little bit. go up to like a half a million dollars. if that's where this increase comes." do you think that is viable if that would be where a compromise might be reached? >> i mean that's not just tim kaine. this has been a long-time problem for democrats, having an agreement on what rich is. look at chuck schumer last year. he imposed a messaging and political tool of a millionaire's tax. he and the white house publicly fought and privately fought over what those levels should be and
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the white house decided that 250 level was what they wanted. but that wasn't always what senators wanted. because they realize that they had tough races in states that leaned red. and so this wouldn't be the first time where you had a politician saying something in an election and then doing something else in practice once they come to congress. it's not senator kane yet. he's got a little bit of time until he gets to washington. particularly to get a lame duck deal. >> you also have senators representing states where cost of living is a lot different from one to the next also. susan can i ask you something about twitter? i read a tweet you sent out today "color me perplexed. why world the white house consider closing president obama's official 1-20 january 20th swearing in to a press pool? what's this all about? >> the presidential inaugural committee put out a list this year this week that described the inauguration ceremony, formal one, official one which takes place on sunday as being private. and when press people ask about what the private meant, they said a decision had not been
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made yet on coverage for that ceremony. that's not the big public one that takes place on monday the 21st but the official one on sunday. i don't understand why there is any discussion. if the president's inauguration official inauguration is not a public event, what is? i was covering the white house in 1985 when the same situation came up with president reagan. his big ceremony was on monday but he was privately sworn in on sunday. there was a full press pool in there to see that and record it, including photographers. and i hope that this white house decides to follow that same course. >> okay. susan page, your many followers are also probably chiming in as well with discussion about it. thank you so much. good to see you both. meredith shiner and susan page. >> thanks, alex. right now the supreme court is entering the debate over marriage for the first time ever. late yesterday the justices decided to hear a state and federal challenges over same-sex marriage. they are granting review of california's ban on same-sex marriage. and they are reviewing the federal defense of marriage act
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or doma which defines marriage as only the legal union of a man and woman. earlier today i spoke with an attorney who argued 31 cases before the supreme court. i began by asking patricia ann miller about california's proposition 8 and how much appetite the court may have to overturn a public vote. >> a lot of the justices will have the view that the constitution is not up for a vote. it's not a public popularity contest when you're talking about constitutional rights. their answers to that what the constitutional question is are highly likely to divide to differ. i think they will agree across the board that sometimes it's their job to overturn laws, notwithstanding the public vote. >> okay. and this proposition 8 i was asking pete williams, would this if it does get overturned, does whatever ruling the supreme court comes down with does it apply only to california or might that be a federal mandate? >> well, it depends on what the ruling is. they've granted review of the fundamental question of whether the equal protection clause
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guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. and if they make that ruling, that's going to be a national ruling. now if they instead do what the lower court did and say look, california, you gave this right and then you arbitrarily pulled it back just as to this one group, that's unconstitutional. that will be a rule that will apply if any other state tries to do the same thing. but so far it would only cover what happened in california. >> this other case involves doma, the federal defense of marriage act. what is at the heart of this question? >> the heart of that question is whether about the fundamental question of the right to same-sex marriage but whether the federal government can define marriage in a certain way as between one man and one woman. historically that's always been the job of the states to decide what marriage is, to define it. so that really is a federal government stepping somewhere where it hasn't before. then when they've done with that statute is say that people can't
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have thousands of federal benefits. the case before the supreme court involve as woman who had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes she wouldn't have had to pay just because the person she was married to was the same gender as herself. that's just a fundamental fairness question before the court. but it's limited to that one federal statute. >> the hearings will begin next year with rulings expected by the summer. developing news today, nbc news has learned that egyptian authorities arrested a suspected terrorist ring leaders who group allegedly participated in the benghazi, libya counsel attack. the suspect is also accused of transporting wp weapons from libya to egypt. federal workers petition the white house for a holiday gift. what is it that they want from the president? also ahead we'll talk with an incoming member of congress about the big job facing him and his views on the fiscal cliff standoffs. you're watching "weekends with alex witt." with the spark cash card from capital one,
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now that the white house christmas trees is in place, federal workers hope some of the goodwill extends to them. one of the many petitions on the web site is to ask president obama to give all federal workers the 24th off. that would give them a four-day holiday weekend. the petition cites occasions when previous presidents granted federal workers a day off on christmas eve. they are 11,000 shy of its goal of 25,000 signatures. congressional freshmen are gearing up for their big stint on capitol hill. meanwhile the frontline in the
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battle over the fist cav cliff is tax increases for the rich. speaker boehner and the republicans say they will not budge on raising rates. but one incoming gop congressman says the tax increases should be on the table and he won't be signing grover norquist's tax pledge. welcome to you and best of luck in the future. but before that we're going to have this interview. >> thanks, ms. witt. >> let's talk about what needs to happen for you to put your support behind higher tax rates. >> i think we need to look beyond that. we need to look at why are we here now. this is something that's been put off for several years. this is a continuing problem. and that's one of the reasons we ran. it was the career politicians either led up to where they're at or failed to prevent it. that was the message that resounded in our district and that got us here. it got to the point where we really don't care who broke it, we just want it fixed. we need to put america first at
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this time. >> i'm curious how much you were able to absorb in orientation. i ask that bought your fellow freshman ann wagner compared it to drinking from a fire hose. what is your take? >> i heard that analogy a lot. there was a lot of information. but it was exciting. the first week i did feel like a fish out of water. certainly that doesn't say we didn't have enough water. but the second week i felt right in there. i felt comfortable. and i'm excited to get up there and get back to start work. we look forward to -- swearing in is on january 3rd. i'll be official. and right after that i'm sure i'll be sworn at [ laughter ] >> you know what, i'm sorry to say you're probably right. looking at the fiscal cliff battle, what are you and the rest of the incoming class learning? or learning to avoid? >> well again, the fiscal cliff, it's been a problem that's been facing our nation. again it's congress failing to act. and this is a time we need to
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deal with those problems. and we've got two choices here. we've got a debt problem. and you've got two choices to fix that. one is to raise revenues and the other is to cut spending. it's going to be a combination of that. my best way of raising revenue is get the economy growing. taxes, raising taxes is last on the list. we need to look at the spending side more than anything else. >> will there be a concerted effort to usher in a new era of compromis compromise? >> you know what, i look forward to seeing that. i've talked to people on the democratic side. and i said what can we do to put the party politics aside and let's put the country first? and it was interesting getting the feedback. because the any freshmen coming in seem to feel the same way. and i look forward to sitting down with them. and right now i'm not involved in that process. we're on the outside and i have an opinion just like everybody else. i know mr. boehner has been working real hard trying to work out a deal with mr. obama.
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and i just hope they can come to grips and terms so that we have some certainty. that's the biggest thing facing our nation as far as the business people. what washington has done is they've created a climate of confusion over the last five, ten years with their policies, rules, regulations and mandates. and of course our tax code. and we need to have certainty to where the business person will invest into their business, and if they invest into their business they'll create jobs and they'll grow the economy. and again i feel that's the best path that we need to go down. and i look forward to being a part of that. >> and i'm glad you will be part of that. because it's interesting. you've called grover norquist's pledge handcuffs. are all absolute positions handcuffs for a lawmaker? >> you know what, look at what's going on right now. you have one side saying we're not doing any spending cuts. the other side saying we're not doing any tax cuts. raising taxes. it's a stalemate from the get go. again you have to look at what we're trying to accomplish. and the bigger picture is we're
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looking at $16.2 trillion in debt. and with either plan that we look at, whether it's mr. obama's or what's been reported on the republican side, our national debt will increase anywhere from 7.7 trillion to 9.1 trillion in the next 10 years. and that's added onto the 16.2 trillion. we need to look at the amount of debt that we've incurred. and we need to work at that to reduce that. and again, it goes back to growing an economy. >> all right. well, thank you very much. florida's congressman elect ted yoho. please next time all my alex. >> thank you. in 13 days some believe the world will come to an end. we got to talk about that here on "weekends with alex witt." [ male announcer ] this is bob,
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new assurances this week from nasa that the world will not end on december 21st. people around the globe are stockpiling supplies just in case. joining me now an astronomy professor in california. thank you for being here. i'm so glad to talk with you about this. there's so much attention on this mayan calendar. supposedly signalling an end to the world on december 21st. what's the truth, andrew, behind this calendar? does it really predict the world's end? >> i like to call this fiction science instead of science fiction. this is completely baseless. there's not a shred of evidence in favor of it. but it sure is a lot of fun to be worrying about the end of the world. hollywood knows that, too. as far as the mayan calendar is considered, alex, this is a complete misunderstanding of how calendars work. look, we faced this kind of calendar cliff every year when on december 31 you run out of
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pages on your calendar. you don't think it's the end of the world. you just think it's time to go to the stationery store and buy a new calendar. we are according to some experts coming to an end of one of the mayan's long cycle of days. but they themselves the living descendants of the mayan say a new cycle will begin. >> the buru four times the size of earth will come close to earth and cause all kinds of disasters. any truth there? >> absolutely not. the buru as it's called is a completely made up planet from the name of an ancient sumerian god. can you imagine, alex, if there really were a planet that big coming close to us now in december? is there any chance that you and all your listeners could not see it? it would be one of the brightest things in the sky. for years astronomers would have been yelling about it.
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astronomy hobbyists would have shown it in the paper. it would have been everywhere. the notion that a planet can hide, thought wouldn't disturb the orbits of the other worlds? it's so ridiculous. scientists can't imagine how anyone takes this seriously. but you're right that people get scared because there's just so much conspiracy stuff out there. >> and you know what, there's hollywood, too. i got to say when you think about that i start thinking about will smith and a bunch of u.s. air force hot shots are going to go up there and blow the thing up. i also want to ask you about solar flares. there are small periods of -- slow periods of solar flares. and sometimes they get a lot bigger. there's one that's supposed to be looming? >> well no, actually there is a regular cycle of solar activity where the sun gets a little bit more explosive on the surface. and there was all this rumor that the end of the maximum of that cycle will come in 2012. but it's not true. it's actually coming in 2013.
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these active regions on the sun are not generally predictable until they happen. and even when they do happen they don't affect life on earth. they occasionally damage a power grid in canada or affect our satellites in orbit. but the notion that civilization would end or that msnbc listeners themselves would be threatened, that's utterly ridiculous. >> so my party plans on saturday, the 22nd, they're good to go? >> good to go. i'm afraid we'll all have to pay taxes in 2013. >> that's a whole another conversation. all right, thank you very much, professor. thank you. >> my pleasure. coming up, the president goes looking for fiscal cliff support. why did he seek it from governors when he needs support from congress? we'll talk to one of the governors the president met with on "weekends with alex witt." i always wait until the last minute. can i still ship a gift in time for christmas? yeah, sure you can. great. where's your gift? uh...
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with alex witt" at 32 past the hour. the fight over the fiscal cliff has all americans worried. after meeting with president obama this week with his fellow governors, my next guest says a failure to reach a solution would send his state into a recession. joining me now is utah governor gary herbert, a member of the national governors association executive committee. governor, welcome. >> thank you. it's an honor to be with you. >> i'm so glad you're here. i want to get your thoughts from inside the room there in person. did president obama make the case for his plan differently than he's been making it publicly? >> well, i think he knew that we were a bipartisan group. we had republicans and democrat governors there. did not expect us to come out and support one plan or the other, which we said going in we would not do. but we were grateful that he actually asked for our advice and our input. states and governors too often have been ignored, have been kind of an afterthought. and frankly we think that if congress and washington would
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look to the states and the governors they would develop better policy. so we were honored to be there to give our input. >> what was the consensus among the governors at that meeting? i mean, were you able to reach a compromise on the plan that you would like to see? >> no. we didn't take sides. we just said the states are there to help. we are going to be impacted. we see the tug-of-war, the political fighting that goes on. it's kind of a high stakes game of poker. but this impacts real people. and getting -- letting us go over the fiscal cliff i've said is uncon chanable. i think that would be extremely disappointing. there's no reason for that. in my state where we are having a significantly positive growing economy now, our unemployment is 5.2% and dropping, we have a surplus of money coming in with growth money. we'll have to go back and recalculate and not only will we not have growth money, we'll have to go back to cuts and a rising unemployment rates and go back into a recessionary mode.
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>> but sir, now given that you weren't there to take a stand, what was the president's message to all of you? >> well, our message to the president was states are there to help. we need more flexibility. this is not a democrat or republican issue. we can do more with less. and we'll help you balance your budget by taking less as our side of the equation when it comes to reduction. but there needs to be spending cuts. everybody agrees there needs to be some spending cuts. we can do our part by taking less money. take away the strings. give us more flexibility. we're innovators and creators of new processes. we can do more with less. it's a win s-win all the way around. >> with regard to the republican governors represented there, yourself and others, are you as steadfast as republican congressmen and women when it comes to the tax rates? >> well, we think growth of the
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economy has got to be a part of the equation. and again, i think frankly both sides are not that far apart. both sides agree there needs to be more revenue. and both sides agree there needs to be spending cuts. it's just kind of how we get there. everybody agrees we've got to be closing loopholes to raise more revenue. i think everybody agrees although more on the republican side that a healthy economy gives you growth money. so it's just now a matter of what is the tax rate increase going to be and will it in fact damage the economy going forward so that it becomes counterproductive. everybody agrees there's got to be spending cuts. and including entitlement reform. so again, we need to have some healthy spending cuts, and entitlement reform and increased revenues to help balance the budget and states are prepared to do our part in that effort. >> but again with regard to your constituents and generating that money coming from higher taxes, the new quinnipiac poll says
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most americans support raising taxes on those making over $250,000 a year. is that true in your state? >> in our state we've taken the approach of cutting taxes. we've eliminate a lot of unnecessary regulations. we've em powered the private sector and our economy is growing again producing more revenue than we've had in the past. we have a balanced budget. we live within our means. we've not dug the hole you see in washington, d.c. another area where washington ought to follow the states because we're doing it better. that being said, i expect there should be a compromise. compromise is not a dirty word. it's something that we've done in the past. certainly how our founding fathers created our country and created the best document in the history of the world. we need to find compromise points if we're going to have tax rate increases, revenue enhancements. it's got to have significant tax cuts and spending reform. >> here's something i've always wanted to ask. we've seen several perennially blue states vote for republican governors. we have chris christie in new jersey coming to mind.
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why is it that voters will go gop for the state house but not for the white house? >> well, think all politics are local, as you've heard said before. and i think there's interesting demographics based on the personality. it does not always follow that the trend of the state is what they'll pick for the executive branch. it depends on who's in opposition. you have a choice to be made between a and b. certainly chris christie i think presents a dynamic leader making reform and doing things that need to be done in new jersey. i mean they've had about 110 tax increases. he came in and said no more. that's a formula for failure. and he's in his own inimitable way said we're not going to do that anymore. i think people appreciate somebody who stands up and says it like it is and gets something done. and that's i think the example of new jersey. and in utah we are a very red state. it would be very difficult for a
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democrat to win here. we are very consecutive historically. and we've got good results. we've had a string of good consecutive govern conservative governors and conservative legislature. at the end of the day it's about outcomes. getting great outcomes in utah with conservative approaches to policy. >> i'm sure your constituents agree with that. utah governor with a beautiful backdrop of the mountains. we'll see you soon. >> thank you, alex. it's official the former governor of florida says he switched parties. during a christmas gathering at the white house last night, charlie crist tweeted he joined the democratic party. he later ran unsuccessfully as a u.s. senator. speculation is he may now run against florida's incumbent governor rick scott. brand-new details today surrounding the tragic turn in the royal radio hoax. the hospital where the nurse worked who took the prank call issued a scathing statement today in an open letter to the radio station the hospital said in part "it was extremely foolish of your presenters even
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to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call. then to discover that not only had this happened but that the call had been prerecorded and that the decision to transmit approve by your station's management was truly appalling." nbc's anna bell roberts is live for news london. with another good day to you, anna bell. what's happening to the deejays and station managers and execs? >> those two dejays have been taken off air and twitter account shut down because of the outrage from all the messages they were receiving was getting pretty abusive. the station manager gave a press conference this morning. he said he's confident they haven't broken any laws. but of course that is under investigation. there's also reports that advertising on the station has been cut for the next couple of days. that's reported to be out of respect for what has happened. but some of the station's advertisers had said they were considering pulling their
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advertising because they didn't want any association with what had gone on. even the prime minister of australia, julia gillard, has come forward, making a statement on this event. and she has called it a tragedy, alex. >> yes. but it's something i think the station executives are going to have to be held further to task. because they're the ones that actually did approve to go through. but in terms of the reaction to all this, it must be absolutely shocking. in fact for the royal family, really difficult. are you hearing anything from their spokespeople? >> well, they have said that they never issued a complaint against the hospital or the nursing staff at the hospital consequently to this hoax call. but throughout they were completely supportive of the hospital and its attempts to deal with this. earlier in the week the day after prince charles himself made a joke about what had happened. even he could see the funny side. but of course, this tragic death has really changed all that.
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and in a way, the great joy that many people felt at the news of the pregnancy of kate, the duchess of cambridge, some kind of shadow cast over that now. because this tragedy really has shocked and upset people. and the family of the nurse who has died, they've come forward saying that they are deeply saddened by the death of their beloved jacintha. let's remember that she is a mother of two school-aged children, alex. >> that is very hard fathom all of that. thank you, anna bell. next three key members now at the heart of the fiscal cliff stalemate. the big three sorts them out here on "weekends with alex witt." initiated.
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no to our poll of the day, americans may be divided over legalizing marijuana.
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one thing is for sure. most americans say when it comes to states voting to legalize pot the federal government needs to stay out of it. a new "usa today" gallup poll says 63% think the federal government should not take steps to enforce marijuana laws in states that legalize it. time for the big three in today's topics. three key numbers, burning questions and best week worst week. we're going to bring in my big three panel now. we are welcoming nbc news correspondent mike viqueira, the big three. nice to have you. democratic strategist morris reid. he's an old hat at all this. republican strategist and msnbc contributor susan dell perce pe. the numbers 65, 37 and 2. susan let's take a look at this new quinnipiac poll. are republicans going to deny the will of the public? >> it's interesting when you hear the will of the public. and yes, president obama won with a mandate. but so did the congress members who returned to congress this
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year. don't forget many of them won with 60 or 70% of the vote. so they also have a mandate on their side. at the end of the day there has to be some form of compromise. perhaps that number goes to 500, perhaps the tax rates do increase but maybe not to 39. maybe to 37. but we have to remember, the thing that president obama ran on was that warren buffett shouldn't pay less in taxes than his secretary. under the president's proposal right now, warren buffett will still pay less taxes than his secretary, a lower percentage, i should say. so capital gains probably should come in there. and that could be part of the compromise. >> okay. mike, this next thing we're going to tackle is 37. here's what's behind it. a "politico" article talks about the 37% solution. the bush era tax rate for upper incomes at 356789 you combine that with the clinton-era rate 39.6. what are you hearing about this compromise at a rate of 37%? anything possible there? >> well, there were some
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tantalizing hedging going on there yesterday, wasn't there, alex? first we heard joe biden he was visiting a diner. as part of this administration p.r. campaign the president went to the toy factory. he's been with middle class people. he's had a parade of ceos marching in and out of the white house. the president is trying to build support both publicly and privately, meeting behind closed doors with nancy pelosi last night. behind this idea of raising taxes on the rich today. he said he would not compromise on that. but all along there has been the suspicion there could be that kind of compromise, that's where the wig wiggle room was. you talk to people about town close to this negotiation and close to negotiations like this over the years. they said it would likely in the end fall somewhere in between there. they could move as susan was saying that $250,000 that floor could go up somewhere around 500,000. we've asked the white house this a million different ways. they always come back to the same question. it's the revenue. but on the political side, the white house feels as though they won the election, they won that battle. and now they are trying to route the enemy while the enemy is
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trying to regroup. they've got all kind of pressure on john boehner. they see no reason to relent at this point. yes, they're going to have to show a little ankle on what comes next in terms of tax reform and perhaps entitlement reform. but they are really pressing their advantage now and standing back to see if john boehner is going to be able to come up with the votes. alex, i've been pessimistic all along. it all comes down to the votes. i'm just not sure. >> okay. morris, the final number we're talking about is 2. let's take a listen to speaker boehner on friday. >> this isn't a progress report because there's no progress to report. when it comes to the fiscal cliff that's threatening our economy and threatening jobs, the white house has wasted another week. >> morris, what can be accomplished face-to-face between these two men? that's our number two. >> well listen. boehner is starting to remind me of newt gingrich. remember the whole situation where newt gingrich got upset with clinton, he wanted to shut down government. this speaker be a student of
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history. this is a bad situation for you. this i not a situation where he has to sit down face-to-face with the president. remember we have a presidential system, not a parliamentary system. i would like to remind my colleague susan. republicans los seats in every chamber. you didn't have mandate. you los your seats in both chambers. you need to come and deal with the -- >> i said members of congress had a mandate. >> you need to deal with the will of the public. it was very clear thought was about 250,000. not warren buffett, warren buffett, average americans, $250,000. mr. speaker, whether you sit down with the president or the chief of staff, obey what the american people have told you because there will be consequences to pay. >> guys, we have to get to burning questions. mike, gop senator jim demint, the status is he's stepping down, he's going to head up the heritage foundation in part because he said he'll have more influence outside of congress. how so? >> if you look at the candidates he's backed, 7 for 20 in general
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elections, probably better in primary elections with republicans but that also presents a problem. some of the candidates he backed, christine o'donnell, the nevada candidate who ran against harry reid, not the greatest track record in the world. he said health care would be the president's waterloo. yes. the president suffered a heavy midterm defeat, a tsunami of republicans coming in and taking back the house of representatives. but after that, the president emerging victorious. he's going on to the heritage foundation. came to washington to do good. he's going to end up doing well over there. >> su susan, the supreme court taking up the issue of gay marriage. the majority of americans support this. what about the republican party? >> it will probably take longer than it should, unfortunately. but this is alleges a generational thing. i think that's where we've seen the increase in support of marriage equality is from the younger generation. it's almost a no-brainer. so if the republican party wants
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to start expanding and reaching younger voters, then they really have to at least understand that there is a point of view there that they have to understand and respect. >> okay. morris, your burning question after a break. substitution. ♪ i'd like to thank eating right, whole grain, multigrain cheerios! mom, are those my jeans? [ female announcer ] people who choose more whole grain tend to weigh less than those who don't. multigrain cheerios tend to weigh less than those who don't. is bigger than we think ... sometimelike the flu.fer from with aches, fever and chills- the flu's a really big deal. so why treat it like it's a little cold? there's something that works differently than over-the-counter remedies. prescription tamiflu attacks the flu virus at its source. so don't wait. call your doctor right away. tamiflu is prescription medicine for treating the flu in adults and children one year and older whose flu symptoms started within the last two days. before taking tamiflu tell your doctor if you're pregnant, nursing. have serious health conditions,
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okay, morris. burning question. hillary clinton in 2016. anything to it? >> yes. yes. >> that's it? >> she'll be a two-term president. yes. >> seriously. okay. i mean, you know, do you talk to her about this? have you talked to some of your colleagues? >> two terms for hillary. two terms for hillary. we'll have four great years of obama, two terms of hillary. >> all right. we'll see if, you know, it happens. how about your best and worst week, morris? >> it's my wife's birthday so i have to say that's my best week, her berth day today. >> nice. >> but for the country, there's a little known thing passed this week on lng exports.
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this is about obama 2.0. this will have a positive impact on the economy. i expect stocks and the economy boosting with this. maybe not a loser but oddball of the week is john mcafee. what is going on with him? someone who loves him, please reach out and help this man. this is a bad situation. >> yeah. that definitely is a bad situation. susan, best and worst. >> for the best week i gave it to john boehner because it looks like people in his conference are tarting to wake up and realize there has to be room for compromise. and that allows him to go into these negotiations with the president and really come up with a grand bargain, hopefully. for the worst week, it has to be senate minority leader mitch mcconnell. i just -- going up there and filibustering against your own bill is never a good thing. >> yeah. >> he really kind of set the stage. >> kind of leaves you head scratching, like, what? okay. mike, how about you? best and worst. >> let's start with worst.
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for obvious reasons we'll pick dee jay shock jocks and prank calls. you don't want to come close to making light of that. that's just horrible. for best week, back to what we were talking act, jim demint. my gosh, he's one of the least flawed members. he's going to go to heritage foundation where his predecessor knocked down a million bucks last week. he'll be one of one instead of one of a hundred. >> let's give mike viqueira a big hand. he did a good job with our best. you near the big three. thank you very much. i think you're going to have to come see us again. that's a wrap. i'll see you here tomorrow at noon eastern. up next, craig melvin. [ male announcer ] take dayquil... [ ding! ] ...and spend time on the slopes. take alka-seltzer plus cold & cough... [ buzz! ] take dayquil.
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